Presented on Saturday, October 5, 2019 in the Barn at Quarry Farm as part of the "Mark Twain and Nature" Quarry Farm Symposium.
In its full range, the presence of nature in Mark Twain's Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc has remained largely unexplored. As a site of fictionalization in a narrative that otherwise strongly relies on historiographical material, the treatment of nature nonetheless proves central to the characterization of the heroine, to the construction of a timeless aesthetic sphere in which her childhood is set, and to the understanding of her relationship with history. it also bears the stamp of Mark Twain's imagination and reveals the oft-denied proximity of his 1895-96 historical romance and his other writings. Focusing on the articulation of nature with spirituality and history, I argue that the narrative reinterprets the myth of the divinely inspired shepherdess and thereby defines an original form of pastoralism that not only fuses existing traditions, but also reaches beyond the tension of nature and history that the genre commonly involves. Through the treatment of Joan's mystic union with nature, the text defines a form of pastoralism in which the retreat into the natural world turns out to be the principle of a renewed commitment to history.
Delphine Louise-Dimitrov is an Assistant Professor at the Catholic University of Paris and a former Quarry Farm Fellow. She holds a doctorate in American literature from the Sorbonne-Nouvelle University in Paris. Her thesis dealt with the writing of history in Mark Twain's fiction. She is now studying American medievalism, with a special focus on the persistence of the figure of Joan of Arc in literature. With Ronald Jenn, she coordinated a special issue on Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc in American Literary Realism (Winter 2019, Vol.51, No.2) and is now editing a special issue on "Joan of Arc through American Eyes" to be published in the Revue Francaise d'Etudes Americaines (RFEA) in Fall 2019.